President Donald Trump will continue to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Israeli settlement activity, the White House said on Monday following reports that Israel plans to build 15,000 new settlement homes in east Jerusalem.
"I'm sure that we'll continue to have conversations with the prime minister and ... that'll be something that the president will continue to discuss," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a news briefing after being asked if Netanyahu was snubbing the US president.
Trump, who has vowed to work for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, told Netanyahu during a news conference in February that he would like to see Israel "hold back on settlements for a little bit."
While Spicer did not elaborate further, the White House's declared intention to continue holding talks with the Israeli premier seems more significant than ever as Israel braces for Tuesday's UNESCO vote on a resolution that seeks to reject the country's sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Spicer's comment regarding President Trump's clear intention to continue discussing the issue of Israel's settlements enterprise come a mere week after a White House official confirmed to The Jerusalem Post
that the American president was considering paying a visit to Israel in late May or in early June. "We are exploring the possibility of a future visit to Israel," the official told the Post
in a confirmation that further emphasized for both leaders to discuss several pressing issues, including Trump's plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital of Jerusalem.
Should Trump make the visit to Israel in the upcoming month it's timing will be especially crucial; on June 1, a waiver on a Congressional mandate to move the embassy in Israel will finally expire.
And while the US president has mostly been perceived so far as supportive of Israel in his public statements, just this past February a senior administration official told the Post
that "we urge all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements. The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”Tovah Lazaroff and Michael Wilner contributed to this report.
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